Monday, 28 April 2014

Salt Beef Jack, The Krays and Richard Branson.

I'm from Southport.
I lead with my right.
My Dad who was in the army.
He lead with his left.
In the army they lead with the left.
He got in with the Krays.
They got in with him for protection money.
He was in his late sixties this is in the sixties.
He called it The Cellar Club.
'Cause it was in a cellar.
Salt Beef Jack they called him.
Ideal premises.
One big part.
Big stage and all that.
All the greats played there.
The Rolling Stones.
The Kinks?
Yeah The Kinks.
He managed The Kinks.
All these people.
I swear down.
Dusty Springfield.
Petula Clark.
Sandy Shaw.
Not in the West End so he done well.
I need someone to do a documentary.
About my old man.
Richard Branson.
I stayed at his house in Oxford.
Anyway went down
Went down there.
It was snowing and everything.
And he said stay and all that.
I was only fourteen.
Of all the people
And all that.
Yeah I've had a hard life.
A hard one but a good one and all that.
I need to get to Kingston and all that.
Find some people to put it together and
put it to Richard Branson 'cause he would definitely be interested.
And all that.
My dad yeah.
No-one’s ever done anything on it.
My old man.
My dad was ranked number three number four in the fifties.
Professional fighter.
Boxing and fencing.
Kinda good for reflexes yeah.
I got kids.
But in foster care yeah.
I need a bit of money though yeah.
Bit of rentage.
Not a lot like.
Fifty quid a week yeah.
There's no middle class in London.
You either got it or you ain’t.
Imagine a mortgage now three hundred grand or summink it's madness.
You can't beat home honestly.
I like the countryside.
Nottingham is a city surrounded by countryside.
You know lace.
Like lace curtains and that.
Industrial revolution and all that.
Thank you.
Can you spare any more change please.
Thank you.
You're a good person, I can tell that.
You're a kind person I can see that.
Thank you.
Thank you.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Brown Trout

It's a late May Sunday evening. Chuck the tackle in the back of the car and scoot across to Bleachfield Corner. Tackle up and tie on a grouse and orange. Not one I use often. Off to the river ah. General's beat. Lower Pavilion. Know it the. Lies and runs like the back of me hand. It's a dull. Humid evening. Ideal for fishing. After about ten minutes. Shallow streamy water. A suicidal fish. Attaches itself to my grouse and orange. This was BIG. I thought it might be a sea-trout but they jump and tug and usually break your line. I thought it might be a grilse. One-sea-winter salmon. But they're also. Quite lively. And usually break your line. This went to the bottom and sulked. Classic brown trout behaviour. Applied pressure. It moved and gradually came in probably taking about five minutes to beach in the shallows where I was standing. It was a brown trout. Bigger than any I'd caught previously. About 60 cm long. I reckoned ah. Conservatively it weighed about. Four pounds. This is a good fish for middle Tweed. The second this fish took I determined I wasn't going to kill it. It un-hooked easily and I held it in streamy water for a while. Allowing it to recover from the struggle. It flicked its great spade of a tail and swam away to. Do its bit for another year in. Maintaining the trout population. As is often the case. When you get a big one you get bugger-all else on the same occasion and so it proved. Glad I let it go. And I haven't killed a fish since.

Thursday, 24 April 2014


So it's the winter of 1968-69 a particularly cold one err. Term has finished and I'm working for a. Firm. Doing a traffic survey around Spitalfields Market fruit and veg market. My grant's blown and I'm near broke. And the job is the only way I can muster some cash for the festive season including. The price of getting to Tyneside on Christmas eve. The work involves standing at set locations and recording traffic movements. Four wheeled vehicles. Six wheeled vehicles. Multi-axle vehicles. Around the market. There are about thirty of us doing it in two shifts seven 'til three. Then three 'till eleven you get. An hour break and head for the Wimpey bar for a burger and coffee. Spun out for an hour to try to get warm again. Spitalfields is interesting territory.  Transit camp for immigrants to London. Huguenot silk weavers. East European Jewish tailors. Bangladeshi rag-trade sweat shops. East of the market was 'Ripper Territory' ah. In 1968 it was not greatly different in its. Dark and dingy streets from what it probably was eighty years before. Christ Church a Hawksmoor. Near derelict. Since restored to a very high standard. Stood on the north-west corner on Commercial Street. Ah. A busy pitch that one you got millions of passing vehicles to record. The population comprised meths. And anything else. Drinking dossers who lived on rough ground just outside the market huddled 'round bonfires. The. Local. Corps of. Ladies of the night. Hundreds of down and outs. Queued each night at the Salvation Army hostel in Middlesex Street. Try to get a bed for the night and a bowl of soup. One day the drinkers lost one of their own who fell into the bonfire. Dead drunk and. Decidedly dead thereafter. It shook the survey team but not the drunks. So. There I am. Late one night. Sat on an orange crate outside a pub in Bishopsgate. Conscientiously entering ticks in columns for cars taxis. Light goods vehicles, heavy wagons etc. Freezing cold. Two-hours past the Wimpey break. And one of the local ladies of the night comes out of the pub with a glass of whisky and hands it to me. If I'd been wearing a hat I would have taken it off to her. Made enough to finance. Retention. Of room in digs over the Christmas holiday period and a few quid for the holiday period. Decided to hitch home. Got tube to Barnet early on Christmas eve, Then bus to A1 junction. Then scored. Super-lift from blonde lady to A68 junction west of Darlington. Arriving there as just getting dark. Further lift prospects poor, so. Got bus into Darlington. Bus to Newcastle and bus home. To south-east Northumberland.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Connemara Mary.

I used to work as an administrator in the Health Service. A early, my second only my second job was at St Mary's Hospital, formerly Paddington General. Now defunct it was demolished about 1990 this was 1973. It was a 500 plus beds general teaching hospital with an A&E. Maternity unit and a psychiatric unit. 
 In those days we had a Saturday morning rota when there was always an administrator in the hospital. This was common practice. We also worked New Year's day in those days. Pay was about £1,000 per year, with about £120 London Weighting. The Saturday morning rota was to make sure the hospital was ticking over OK, information on bed occupancy was available to catering, which bulk-fed patients on the Nightingale style wards. Deal with any crises arising and deal with administration of hospital deaths and requests for autopsies on patients who had died on Friday or Saturday morning. Ah. 'Mary's' was in North Paddington, a very Irish part of London the. Hospital Secretary. Was second generation anglo-Irish, about half the nursing and midwifery staff were first generation Irish girls. Amongst other areas it served as the district general hospital for Kilburn. In Kilburn High Road, at the weekends, you stepped over the drunks lying outside pubs. I know, I once walked from Edgware Road to where I lived at the time in Colindale, about nine miles, on a Saturday night Sunday morning. I was Assistant Hospital Secretary.
So, this Saturday morning, 'bout summer 1973, I'm the duty administrator.  I get a call from the Maternity unit, to say they had an infant death where the medics wanted an autopsy, the mother was on the ward.
Procedure was that you got a consent form ready, picked up the hospital notes from their last known location, went to see the relative to offer condolences. Get their consent for an autopsy. So went to the ward which had rung; they gave me the notes, which, as with all maternity cases were the mother's notes. The mother's name was Mary; the notes comprised only a casualty card which said she'd arrived in A&E, with abdominal pain, collapsed on the floor and gave birth to a still-born infant. 'Did not know she was pregnant'. No address, no date of birth, no GP, 'no-nothing-else'.Met Mary in the ward interview room. She looked as if she had lived through heaven and hell; she might have been any age from 16 to 35. Went through the prescribed speech...need to find out why your baby died; gain information to help others etc. I don't think Mary understood any of it and I recall her saying. Very little and that in very poor English or mixed Irish and English. She gave an address in Connemara and duly signed the form with her 'X'. Today. Ireland is accepted as having one of the best education systems in Europe. In the late 60s it hadn't. I knew young Irish lads, portering at UCH, who read the pictures in the Beano and Dandy. I encountered Mary for about five minutes, yet can recall her face and have wondered, often, what became of her. Did she go home to Connemara? Did her family take her back? Had they thrown her out in the first place for bringing shame on the family? Did she end up on the streets in London? Did the pathologists write the obvious PM report - baby died from lack of ante natal care, mother's poor nutrition, mother's no-fault-of-her-own ignorance? Did it make any anybody?

Friday, 11 April 2014

David Tennant.

Ok. Ahm. I used to write quite regularly for a number of. Film and TV magazines. Including. The Doctor Who magazine like a lot of my. Friends and contemporaries I grew up as a fan of the programme. And. It just so happened. That. That meant I was the. First person. To. Ever talk. To. David Tennant about being. In Doctor Who. And. I've spoken to a lot of actors. About. Taking part in those productions by then I was going. Regularly to the recordings. And. They would all say very polite things about. Oh oh it's lovely to be in the programme I. It's a. It's a super show and I've always liked it. Ah and they would sound very genuine as actors do. David Tennant was quite different because. I. Just asked him the standard question. How do you feel about the. The job and he said “This is fantastic!”. He was the most. Enthusiastic person I'd ever met about. Most enthusiastic about. Being involved in it even though very. This is before. The programme. Came back onto TV. Nine years ago this is about ten eleven years ago. After the recording we went over to the pub across the road. And. Had a couple of drinks with. The small cast involved my friend who was the producer who'd known me for years so we just sat around. Having a drink or two and at one point. I'd. I'd said ooh. I guess it's my round. I think I've got enough cash I don't even know why I said that out loud. And David. Overheard. And said oh. Here's a tenner in case you don't. So I went off to the bar with. David Tennant's ten pound note in my back pocket. And I got home that night and found it was still there. I hadn't. Hadn't needed his money but I completely forgot. Honestly forgot to give it back. To him. At the end of the evening I felt very bad about this. He's not. That. Famous at the time. This is before he was very famous. At the end of the year the. Production company had a party for all the people who'd been involved in the productions. That year and I got invited. And. Couldn't help asking. The. ah. Guy who ran the company. Is David Tennant going to be there? Is David going to be at this party. 'Cause I had this terrible. Burning in my conscience. This money I'd taken off this. Relatively well known actor but not someone who could just throw money around. He said he would be. Turned up to the bar where the party was being held. Spotted David in the crowd talking to someone else. Went up to him. Like a magnet. And said. David. This is your ten pound note. And he said. Is it? Ok. And then took his ten pound note back off me. And that's my story. Absolutely true. 

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Tour de France.

So right errr I've got a really good scar right on my ankle which I would show you. But I can't I can't 'cause I've got tights on. Don't wanna take me tights off. But I've got a really good scar on my ankle I really like scars. 'Cause they 'cause they tell a story. So it's about this big. You can't see that on your thing but it's about the size of that ten. Ten centimetres. Shut up I'm being interviewed knob jockey. Knob jockey! Love that word. Erm. And so basically when I was about four years old I used to live with my dad on part of the longest constant road in England. That longest constant road is now going to be used on the fourth of July 2014 for the Tour de France! And the tour de France is going past my Dad's house and we're gonna have a party. We have cyclists going past it all the time. So but let me tell you a darker side to the longest constant road. Oooooh de-de-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding. Well. Bells, that. Sinister bells. See that's the arc of the narrative. So. About four years old, primary school halfway down the hill down the hill me and my dad lived at the top of the hill. Me dad used to take me down on the back of his bike 'cause that's the tour de France route. Everyday for school he'd say do you want to take the car or shall we take the bike. And one. Fateful day. I decided. Bike. Now the way he'd take me down on the bike. Was on. A towel. On the crossbar. Sidesaddle. Yeah. So there's my dad, there's handlebars, there's me flying down the road on a towel. Halfway down the hill to school. My. Little four year old leg gets caught in the spokes of the wheel. It's prosthetic. It is I can't show you though. I'm a bit embarrassed now. That's why I can't. I wear long skirts. My leg got caught in the spokes. Of the wheel. The bike ground to a halt and my leg was in it. Yeah. And my leg was broke in three places. Yeah. My dad broke his arm my dad went flying the bike ground to a halt and my dad went. He was a professional violinist and he never played the violin again. Then. Interestingly the parents of a boy I hated at school. Happened to be driving past. Uhm. And picked us up, they picked us up and took us to the hospital. And me and that boy had a bond from then on. But also I couldn't, because like. I was so little I was only a small child. I was about I was four I was four yeah. Almost five. Between four and five. I was four. But because I was so little they couldn't give me crutches because I was so. Wasn’t strong enough to lift up my own body weight. So I had to have a little bell and people had to carry me everywhere like to the toilet. I couldn’t walk for six weeks I had to have physio. Therapy like. Do all this stuff. Like. Year sixes in my village school like. Two year six girls were like. Employed to look after me at break time. But because I was a captive audience and I couldn't like go anywhere they used to like. Abuse me they used to make me eat soap. They used to dress me up in horrible clothes. And like. Used to make me like wee in front of them. But you know. Life moves on. I can't really ride a bike. Any more. Too psychologically scarred mate. Flippin' hell. It was this one. No. No that's a fib. They're both real I didn't really lose a leg but. Yeah.  

Monday, 7 April 2014

Not a story. I just wanted to share some little things that helped me fix my soul when my brain was kicking my heart in the dick.

Today's been a sad, strange day. Sometimes unhappy news can serve as a reminder that we must all try hard to be kind and compassionate to one another.

I posted the following on someone's blog a couple of weeks ago when they shared their recent experience with depression and anxiety. I know it's unorthodox, and it's not the kind of thing that I use this blog for (my six (6) blog followers have come to expect a certain standard and consistency in my work. Probably). But goodness me, there's a lot of negativity out there, isn't there? Here's a little something to help neutralize that. It might just be the thing that that one person needs to read right now.

Dear ___,

Thanks for posting this. Sorry to hear you're having a rubbish time.

When I was ill, I remember how hard it was to imagine getting better. Be kind to yourself. It takes time. Nourish yourself - your body with healthy food, fresh air and lots of sleep; and your soul with beautiful art. If your concentration is shot to pieces like mine was you might struggle to read for long, so poetry and graphic novels are a good choice - Craig Thompson is excellent. David Shrigley is great too. These things help me remember what's important.

I watched this many times.

Remember these lines from "If":

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

Allie Brosh's blogs about her experience with depression are also excellent.

If you feel stressed and under pressure (hahaha..."if") write yourself a list of things you do and don't have to do every day. I did this for a short time when I was so ill I couldn't work:

I DO have to:
Get out of bed, shower, get dressed.
Leave the flat for at least 30 mins a day.
Cook dinner for my partner.

I DON'T have to:
Go outside of a two mile radius of my home.
Respond to emails if I don't want to.
Talk to anyone I don't want to.

I'm lucky enough to have a wonderful partner - he and my family are an amazing support network, and it sounds as though you have a very similar one. Let them look after you - remember you'd do the same for them. It's what humans do.

I hope you don't mind me making these suggestions - and I'm certainly not suggesting that if you read a couple of blogs and watch a few youtube clips you'll be able to ditch the meds and spend your days cartwheeling through clover fields. I just wanted to share some little things that helped me fix my soul when my brain was kicking my heart in the dick.

Michelle x